Brian and Kelly Nelson once did that newlywed kind of thing, wrote down their goals for the next year, the next decade.
Being a man, Brian thought like one.
“I wrote ‘get a bigger TV,’ for a short-term goal,” he admits. “Kelly wrote that in 10 years she wanted to have an animal sanctuary.”
Nearly 20 years later, Brian is still a man, but a better one, he thinks. He and Kelly each got a master’s degree — his in organizational leadership, hers in psychology.
Brian left the Army for the corporate world, found he didn’t care for it and joined the Army National Guard full time. Kelly counseled abused children but found the bureaucracy frustrating.
The Nelsons had pets in their home that first decade, a dog and cat.
“When we lost our 9-year-old cat, Kirby, I was a train wreck, emotionally overwhelmed for a week,” Brian said. “I learned animals make us exercise two muscles, the one that gives love and the one that receives it.”
In 2004, the Steilacoom couple established the Kindred Souls Foundation, an animal rescue organization. It began when they found three kittens. Kelly’s parents took two, the Nelsons took the third.
Like the couple who founded it, Kindred Souls has evolved.
“There are good rescue groups in Washington, but most of them rescue highly adoptable animals,” Kelly said. “What was lacking was a rescue group that took in animals with medical issues, elderly animals, feral kittens.
“These are animals that take enormous work, but their lives can still be full, and they can still give back.”
A registered nonprofit that has found its niche, Kindred Souls has no paid staff. Among the many volunteers is the Chambers Creek Veterinary Hospital. Pet stores across Pierce County donate food and supplies.
Kindred Souls holds bake sales, garage sales and, for the last three years, an annual Unleashed at Stadium Bowl endurance challenge. Participants run the Stadium Bowl stairs “for health and animals,” and the event has raised several thousand dollars each summer. This year’s event was held last weekend.
Like that stairs run, the organization it helps fund is unique. Take their senior program, tailored to elderly people and animals.
“We found that many agencies won’t let the elderly adopt animals and that some rescues put down animals over the age of 5 because they’re hard to adopt out,” Kelly said.
“Our Senior Companion Program matches seniors with cats or dogs 10 years and older — and provides food, cat litter and medical services to the animal for the remainder of the animal companion’s life.”
There’s no adoption fee because, technically, the animal belongs to Kindred Souls. If the foster animal needs to visit the vet, volunteers will pick it up and return it.
“The concept was simple,” Kelly said. “You provide the love and care; we’ll take care of the expenses and have a caseworker who monitors every animal.”
The Nelsons’ isn’t a typical animal rescue.
“We ask a lot of people. If you find a cat or dog, we ask you to foster it until we can find it a more permanent home,” Kelly said. “We can’t help everyone, but we assist with a problem, not take it on.”
With its network of 50 foster volunteers, Kindred Souls has taken in animals with serious medical challenges, others with emotional issues. One young pit bull pup showed up abused, so traumatized he wouldn’t drink.
“We had to use the Jedi mind trick with him,” Brian said. “We’d put his kibble in water, feed him chicken in chicken broth, sneak in his daily requirement.”
And yes, they found him a home. Today, Otis still has issues, but he’s happy and loved.
Kindred Souls takes donations of both money and time. One donor has given more than the Nelsons could have hoped for — 5 acres in Graham.
With help from volunteers, they hope to turn the land into a sanctuary that can house animals in need — dogs and cats, often discarded by their owners, with injuries and issues.
“We’ve worked with 1,200 animals since we started, adopted out probably 800 of those, fostered the rest until the ends of their lives,” Kelly said.
“These animals teach you life lessons,” Brian said. “Their life spans are shorter than ours, so you’ll learn to handle loss at some point. But before that, you’ll give and get love and companionship.
“For me, it’s become personal. For Kelly, it always was.”Larry LaRue: 253-597-8638 email@example.com blog.thenewstribune.com/larue